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Madrasa Will Be the Largest Free eLearning Platform in the Arab World

By Cait Etherington
November 02, 2018
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In late October, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recently launched a new series of MOOCs for adult learners with the support of the Sharjah’s NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, announced plans for another major eLearning initiatives. The Madrasa portal will be the largest eLearning platform in the Arab world and serve more than 50 million Arab learners at the K-12 level.

The Scope of the Madrasa Portal Project

The Madrassa Portal will include 5,000 educational videos on science, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology and target learners from kindergarten to 12th grade. Educational content will be delivered in Arabic. Content originating in other languages will be translated to Arabic. The platform will also deliver the daily 1000×1000 competition.  As part of the competition, one question will be posed each day for 1,000 days. Students who participate get the chance to enter a raffle draw to win $1,000 in US funds.

The specific goal of the Madrassa Portal is to help elevate the educational situation in the UAE to levels in top countries around the world. As stated on the UAE government site, a key goal of the new site is to bridge the knowledge gap in the Arab world and remove the barrier that Arab pupils encounter when they search for resources and information available in English. The site is part of a broader effort to create a new generation of qualified Arab researchers, scientists, innovators and inventors. The platform is accessible online and students can access it via their personal computers or mobile phones through the Madrasa app, which is available on iTunes and Google Play.

The new educational platform is one of the first results of the ongoing United Arab Emirates’ “Translation Challenge” initiative. The challenge, which kicked off in 2017, aims to translate 5,000 educational videos and 11 million words into Arabic to bring new and engaging STEM materials to K-12 students across the UAE region.

UAE Is Becoming a Leader in eLearning

Despite Western perceptions of the UAE, the country has a well-developed education system that serves both boys and girls, as well as male and female adult learners. The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, DC reports that the literacy rate of both women and men in the United Arab Emirates is close to 95%, but more women than men have completed secondary education, and there are more women enrolled in university and post-graduate institutions. In fact, 77% of Emirati women enroll in higher education after secondary school, and they make up 70% of all university graduates. Still, the UAE is currently engaged in an ambitious attempt to make education even more accessible to a wider ranger of UAE learners across levels.

The Madrassa Portal may be one of the UAE’s most ambitious eLearning initiatives to date, but it is not the only initiative. In addition to the recent MOOC initiative being spearheaded by the NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, earlier this year, Blackboard established a center for excellence in the UAE to promote best practices in online teaching. The Blackboard Center for Excellence will be based at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in the UAE. Another UAE project launched in 2018 resulted in the distribution of over 3000 tablets to young learners. The UAE isn’t simply embracing eLearning to support its expanding education system at the K-12 and postsecondary levels. As recently reported on eLearning Inside News, the country is also using eLearning to address other forms of training, even drivers training.

If the UAE is currently embracing eLearning as a way to rapidly scale its education system, it is no surprise. Emirates 24/7 reports that according to a 2016 World Economic Forum, the UAE occupies the first position in the Arab region in terms of “the readiness of its telecommunications networks.” Network readiness includes the capacity of an economy to benefit from information and communication technology.